Pastoral Sharings: "Easter Sunday"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Easter Sunday
Posted for Arril 5, 2015   


Undoubtedly Easter Sunday is the most important day in 
the liturgical year. Indeed we celebrate all the other 
Sundays as a weekly reminder of the fact that Christ rose 
from the dead on this the first day of the week.

Each year when we celebrate Easter we try to recapture some of the joy that was experienced by the first disciples once they realised that Christ had actually risen. Of course, at first they couldn’t really understand what had happened; we know some of them initially believed that the body of Jesus had been stolen by grave robbers.

But very soon they remembered that Jesus had foretold that he would rise from the dead, but even realising this they were still completely and absolutely astonished when he appeared in their midst.

In the Gospel text for today St John tells us about a sort of a race between himself and St Peter as to who would get to the tomb first. They had been alerted by Mary Magdalene and started running to the tomb. There is a nice little interplay between the two Apostles; John gets there first but then holds back to let Peter enter the tomb in acknowledgement of his seniority.

Peter goes into the tomb and notes how the grave clothes were placed, but when John goes into the tomb it is he who is the first to believe.

This makes him the most reliable witness to the resurrection; this is the event that validates him as the author of his Gospel. He sees that the tomb is empty and he believes that Jesus has risen from the dead. This simple fact places him above all others and gives him absolute authority as the one who can tell the story of Jesus and what he achieved with the greatest authenticity of all.

Due to the great distance in time that separates us from these events we don’t have the privilege of being among the ones to see the empty tomb. Neither is it possible for us to experience the appearances of the Risen Jesus to the Apostles.

No our faith in the resurrection of Jesus comes about because other people have told us what happened. There were the original witnesses, namely Mary Magdalene, the Apostles and the other close disciples of Jesus. These passed the news on, they gave testimony to their friends and then to more distant acquaintances and so the news of the resurrection gradually spread far and wide, eventually coming down to us.

In our case it was most likely our parents who first told us that Jesus had risen from the dead. Seeing their faith in this wonderful event we take it on trust and we find that we can believe it too.

Belief in the resurrection is the very foundation of our faith, the stone on which it is built. Upon this single truth the other doctrines are constructed that make up the faith of the Church. These are not a set of fanciful notions but are rather the logical consequences and the working out of that greatest miracle of all, the resurrection.

It is from the resurrection that everything else flows: our belief in the Eucharist, our understanding of the role of the Saints and our faith in the everlasting life of heaven. There are many other doctrines that flow from these roots of our religion such as our belief in the Church and the power of the sacraments. Without the resurrection none of these concepts would mean anything at all.

As with the feast of Christmas, there are many accretions that have attached themselves to the Easter celebrations over the centuries.

I believe that the Easter Bunny owes more to folklore and paganism than to the Christian religion. Easter Bunnies are more of a fertility symbol than anything else and it is likely that their connection to Easter is due to the coincidence of it occurring in Springtime when fertility was celebrated in pagan times.

Easter Eggs make a bit more sense since they remind us of the stone which was rolled away from the tomb. I remember as a child we would go to a park on Easter Sunday and roll the eggs down a slope in imitation of the stone being rolled away from the tomb.

The prevalence of Easter Eggs is possibly also due to the fact that many people abstained from eggs as part of their Lenten Fast and once Easter came along they were able to be eaten once again. During Lent the eggs were often hard boiled to avoid spoiling; and once that was done it is not so difficult to understand that then they could be decorated as is often the custom in Eastern Europe today.

A more modern addition I suppose is the idea of a chocolate egg, perhaps this is inspired by our consumer culture and the desire for instant gratification. Of course, Easter is a time for great feasting and so I suppose chocolate eggs can be seen in that context.

A very common custom right across Europe is to eat lamb on Easter Sunday. Besides it being the right time of year for lambs to become available they represent, of course, Jesus who is the Lamb of God.

Whatever your particular customs it is very important to celebrate this great feast commemorating the resurrection of Jesus in the home. It is an especially good time for families and for eating a special meal together.

Just to go back briefly to the text of the Gospel, while I spoke earlier about the race between Peter and John I do not want to overlook the role of the very first witness to the resurrection, namely Mary Magdalene.

In her day women were not allowed to be witnesses in a Jewish court because it was thought that they were far too flighty and unreliable, only a man’s word could be trusted. Yet all of the Gospel writers tell us that Mary of Magdala and some other women were the very first witnesses to the resurrection. It is they who tell the Apostles that the tomb is empty.

This is an example of the veracity of the Evangelists; most other authors of the time would simply have omitted the presence of the women, they would have only regarded the men as proper witnesses and the women would most likely never have got a mention. To me this is more evidence, if any more were needed, of the truth of the Gospels in which even uncomfortable truths are not overlooked.

I think that this is also another example of how the Gospel constantly turns our accepted attitudes upside down. Women couldn’t give witness in purely human courts but here they are the ones who are permitted to give witness to things which are entirely supernatural. They can’t give testimony about the rights and wrongs of everyday life, but in the Christian dispensation these women are the ones who give the first witness to the greatest event that ever happened.

Women may be disregarded by men but not by God. Whatever sexism we might think we see in Christianity, make no mistake that there is absolutely none at its roots. Here it is God’s values that are given priority and not any merely human constructs.

The Gospel is always Good News; it is good news for men and it is good news for women. It is good news for everyone that Christ is risen and that new life awaits us all.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
April 5, 2015

Easter Sunday, Year B—April 5, 2015
Today’s Gospel describes an absence that confounds the disciples, preparing them for the Presence their hearts desire.

Gospel (Read Jn 20:1-9)

On Palm Sunday, the narrative of our Lord’s Passion ended with these words: “Then they rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb” (Mk 15:46b). Jesus’ dead Body had been quickly prepared for burial, because the Sabbath sundown approached, and He was laid in the fresh tomb of a rich man. Then, for His followers, there was silence and utter desolation. We can only imagine how much “rest” they got on what must have been the longest Sabbath day of their lives.

Easter: Easter Flowers
The flowers!  We come to Church on Easter and are overwhelmed with the beauty and fragrance of flowers.  Here is an obvious question: Why flowers?  Why do we fill the Church with flowers to celebrate Easter?  The answer is far more than Easter takes place in the Spring when the flowers begin to bloom.  There is a deeper meaning than that.  The flowers signify the beauty of a world renewed.  Easter celebrates the beauty of renewed life in Christ.

Sundown on Holy Thursday during Holy Week marks the beginning of three sacred days (Triduum) that changed the destiny of the human race.  Few of us have sufficient time to make use of all the following suggestions for prayers during these holy days, but it would be a tragedy to let this season of grace go by without taking some time for extended prayer and reflection.  So steal away for as much time as you can and let the Spirit help you pick and choose which devotions will best help you make the most of this special time.  See also the other Triduum readings, prayers, and resources in the Lent and Holy Week sections of The Crossroads Initiative Library.

Spend This Week With Jesus – A Daily Chronology of Jesus’ “Last” Week
At the heart of our faith is the Paschal mystery: the Passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. All of salvation history leads up to and goes forth from these saving events. The purpose of this post is to describe Jesus’ final week. We call this “Holy Week” because Jesus’ public ministry culminates with His suffering, death, and resurrection.

I Believe in Jesus Christ
To profess belief in the second person of the Most Holy Trinity carries with it unfathomable implications because full understanding lies rooted inconceivably beyond human reach in our eternal Creator. The Catechism elucidates the incarnation as we read: “we believe and confess that Jesus of Nazareth, born a Jew of a daughter of Israel at Bethlehem at the time of King Herod the Great and the emperor Caesar Augustus, a carpenter by trade, who died crucified in Jerusalem under the procurator Pontius Pilate during the reign of the emperor Tiberius, is the eternal Son of God made man. He ‘came from God’, ‘descended from heaven’, and ‘came in the flesh’ For ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”1 Such profound words constitute a poetic promise by those of us who utter them and compel us by the most strenuous efforts to apprehend (aided by the gifts of the Holy Spirit) who Christ Jesus is and what our belief in Him demands from us.

Does God Still Speak to Us?
I sat quietly; a little disheartened by a conversation I had just had. The person I was talking to told me that she didn’t believe God really talks to her. In fact, she wasn’t sure that He talked to anyone really. I felt a sadness creep into my heart for her. How could she believe that God doesn’t talk to her? How could she miss His voice when there are times I hear it as clearly as I hear my sweet little ones’ voices as they call out, “Mama!”?

Surrender It to God
“Our Lord has shown me the way that leads to love – it is the only way that leads to love – it is the way of childlike trust and surrender; the way a child that sleeps is afraid of nothing in its father’s arms.” — St. Therese of Lisieux

“We can only learn to know ourselves and do what we can – namely, surrender our will and fulfill God’s will in us.” – St. Teresa of Avila

“Just surrender it to God!” I heard my wise friend saying as I recounted to her the events of the past week. “I am!” I retorted. “I am going to pray for you”, she replied.

15 Amazing Quotes from Saint Padre Pio
When I chose Padre Pio as my Confirmation saint it was because I thought it was cool that he could bilocate and read souls…

So… I really thought hard about that one.

But God can work through anything, and since my Confirmation, through the intercession of Padre Pio, I have grown a lot in my love and understanding of this holy man. I took a class on him in college in an effort to get to know him better. We read thousands of pages of his letters to and from his spiritual directors and directees (the people he gave spiritual advice to). I think it’s safe to say that after hours of study and prayer he and I have moved from “acquaintances” to “spiritual father/daughter.” And I have been so blessed by his wisdom.

Hard Sayings: God’s Word Never Changes
This article’s title comes to us from John 6:60, and is in regards to Jesus telling his disciples that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have eternal life. Many followers left him over the doctrine of the Eucharist, apparently not understanding His words of spirit and life in John 6:63 (spirit and life = sacramental reality, not cannibalism).

But there are many other hard sayings in sacred Scripture. As Catholics, we are not only expected to know them, but to observe them as well. Let’s take a look at some other those hard sayings.

On the Lost Justice of the “Sabbath Rest”

Some of us who are older remember that Sundays were once quiet in downtown; in shopping areas, parking lots were empty. Most businesses were closed and few people had to work on Sundays. Surely there were exceptions, such as medical personnel, emergency workers, and those who ran essential services like power plants. But for most, Sunday was a day off. And although the biblical Sabbath was Saturday, in a largely Christian nation Sunday was the “Sabbath” day of rest.

The Forgotten Benefits of Christ Within
I was having my very first funeral service as a seminarian when what I then considered the unthinkable happened – I started to cry as I noticed the deep pains of the bereaved even though I knew nothing about the deceased during her life. I was thinking, “How am I going to be a priest if I get emotional at funerals when I have little knowledge of the deceased? Hasn’t it been drummed into my head in many ways that men do not cry, at least not in public? Isn’t there something wrong with me?”

No Freedom Without Faith, Says Archbishop Chaput
Over at his blog for The American Conservative, Rod Dreher notes that Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia gave a key address at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary on March 17.  The Philadelphia prelate said that for religious liberty to endure, traditional religion must endure and thrive:
The biggest problem we face as a culture isn’t gay marriage or global warming. It’s not abortion funding or the federal debt. These are vital issues, clearly. But the deeper problem, the one that’s crippling us, is that we use words like justice, rights, freedom and dignity without any commonly shared meaning to their content.

Who is Deserving of Life and Love?
If I were to tell you that I only love my blue-eyed children, what would you think? There would surely be well deserved outrage! What if God only loved those of us who were saints or we were obligated to only love those with whom we agree? How would the family fare if children only had to obey the house rules that they enjoy?

I could continue with one outlandish example after another, but the point is sufficiently made.

When God Doesn’t Answer
When I was a spiritual newborn, I thought I could study my way into heaven. If I just accrued the right information, gathered the necessary data, I could guarantee a seat in the celestial court, even if only in the nosebleed section. I remember combing the aisles of Barnes & Noble looking for books on Christian spirituality, the Saints, Catholic doctrine and anything else that I perceived could give me the tools to find and know God—and to be happy. I obsessed over gaining more knowledge, rapaciously consuming everything I could because I believed the more knowledge I had of the faith and God, the happier I would be. I was looking for a shortcut, one that detoured from the narrow way and dropped me off right at the front gates, you know, the pearly ones.

Why It’s Impossible to Be a Catholic
It’s those ten commandments. They’re impossible!

Not long ago I had an email correspondence with a man who was divorced and remarried.

He asked why the church could not be more “forgiving”.

By this I think he meant that he wanted the church to say his second marriage was okay, or maybe he wanted me to say the marriage was okay, that it by living with another woman other than his validly married wife he was not, after all, “living in sin”.

Tolerance Has Its Place, But Also Its Limits – A Brief Consideration of a Widely Misunderstood Virtue
Yesterday we discussed the intolerance of the very radicals who are forever calling for tolerance. A couple of people wrote in to indicate that they consider my stance duplicitous, since I likely support Archbishop Cordeleone’s stance requiring Catholic School teachers to demonstrate loyalty to Catholic teachings and promise not to teach to the contrary in Catholic schools. I do in fact support the good Archbishop. But I do not accept the charge of duplicity.

On the Malice of Mortal Sin
What does the sinner do when he commits mortal sin? He insults God, he dishonors him, he afflicts him. In the first place, mortal sin is an insult offered to God. The malice of an insult is, as St. Thomas says, estimated from the condition of the person who receives and of the person who offers the insult. It is sinful to offend a peasant; it is more criminal to insult a nobleman: but to treat a monarch with contempt and insolence, is a still greater crime. Who is God? “He is Lord of lords and king of ings” (Revelation 17:14). He is a Being of infinite majesty, before whom all the princes of the earth, and all the saints and angels, are less than an atom of sand. “As a drop of a bucket…as a little dust” (Isaiah 40:15). The prophet Hosea adds, that, compared with the greatness of God, all creatures are as insignificant as if they did not exist.

On the Eternity of Hell
Were hell not eternal, it should not be hell. Torments which continue but a short time, are not a severe punishment. The man who is afflicted with an imposthume [an abscess] or cancer, submits to the knife or the cautery. The pain is very sharp; but, because it is soon over, the torture is not very great. But, should the incision or cauterization last for a week, or for an entire month, how frightful should be the agony! A slight pain in the eye, or in the teeth, when it lasts for a long time, becomes insupportable. Even a comedy, a musical entertainment, should it continue for an entire day, produces intolerable tediousness. And should it last for a month, or for a year, who could bear it? What then must hell be, where the damned are compelled, not to listen to the same comedy or the same music, nor to submit merely to pains in the eyes or in the teeth, or to the torture of the knife, or of the red-hot iron, but to suffer all pains and all torments? And for how long? For all eternity, “They shall be tortured forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).

Ask Father Mike: Do We Need Confession?
Dear Fr. Mike,

I want to go to Confession, but I don’t really feel bad for my sins. What do I do? Can I be forgiven?

That’s a really common experience. After all, if we think about it, one of the main reasons (if not the only reason!) why we sin is because there is something pleasing about it. Even when Eve saw the fruit, it was “good, pleasing…and desirable to the eyes.” It seems that the only reason we choose to do anything is because we are convinced that it will make us happy. And sometimes it does. Sometimes sin makes us happy.

A Most Fitting Response to the Redefinition of Marriage
Truth doesn’t always need to be harsh. In fact, speaking the truth in charity is the only way that it could ever be heard. Dr. Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation offers a diplomatic, no-nonsense response to the marriage equality debate from a public policy perspective.

The Cross in Our Lives
There are so many reasons that Christ’s Cross should be on our minds as a Christian, especially because we are navigating the season of Lent—that beautiful and prayerful time of year. Holy Mother Church prods us to become more mindful of Jesus’ Passion and Death on the Cross—His unselfish holy sacrifice so that we might have Eternal Life.

We practice the Stations of the Cross devotion on Fridays throughout Lent and we pray to grow closer to Christ and to understand the real meaning of the Cross.

Four Reasons to Praythe Stations of the Cross Daily
The Stations of the Cross is one of the most neglected devotions in daily Catholic prayer. Often we are encouraged to pray the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, and Liturgy of the Hours (which are all great suggestions) but I do not remember anyone suggesting to me to pray the Stations of the Cross on a daily basis.
This is unfortunate as many of the saints have derived great benefit from accompanying Jesus on his Way to Calvary and many were inspired to compose their own versions of the ancient devotion.

So here are seven reasons (in no particular order) why we should consider praying the Stations of the Cross on a daily basis:

The Shroud: Not a Painting,Not a Scorch, Not a Photograph
This June, Pope Francis will be making a pilgrimage to Turin, Italy, home of the famous Shroud of Turin, which many believe is the 2,000-year-old burial cloth of Jesus Christ. The pope’s June 21-22 visit will include time venerating the Shroud at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. Francis will then visit the tomb of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, buried in a nearby altar. The trip will also include a commemoration of St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesians and patron saint of youth who worked in Turin; this year marks the 200th anniversary of his birth. The papal visit will take advantage of April 19-June 24 exposition of the Shroud, which was last displayed in public in 2010.

6 Early Christian Controversies That Protestantism Can’t Explain
In an article entitled Saint Patrick the Baptist?, Stephen R. Button tries to claim St. Patrick for Evangelical Protestantism… or at least disassociate him from Roman Catholicism. Button is hardly alone: you can find similar attempts by Don Boys and others, some of them dating back several decades.

The argument tends to work like this. From Patrick, we have (in Button’s words) only the “84 short paragraphs that make up both his Confession and his ‘Letter to Coroticus.’” Baptist authors then mine these texts for any doctrines that Patrick doesn’t mention explicitly, and then claim that he must have held the Baptist view. So, for example, since Patrick doesn’t say who ordained him a bishop, Button concludes that Patrick must have believed that ordination came directly from God, rather than through the Church: ….more

A Fortnight’s Best in Catholic Apologetics
This Fortnight’s Best in Catholic Apologetics features the best articles from around the internet concerning faith proposals and defenses of the Catholicism from the previous fortnight.

In 2014 I complied a weekly ‘Best of Catholic Apologetic’ over at my website, but due to more vital matters competing for my time, I could no longer sustain that effort. Yet, due to Shaum McAfee’s persistence, I’ve decided to bring that effort over the Epic Pew, but on a less frequent scale. That being said, you can still expect even better lists. I hope you enjoy it always.

“How should we face our last years? This booklet will guide you towards an answer
It used to be the case that the only two certainties in life were death and taxes. Now – at least in the prosperous First World – a third has been added to this mordant list: old age. You can’t open a newspaper or listen to the radio without stumbling on yet another discussion about the demographics, economics, political significance or social problems of the elderly. When media guru Joan Bakewell (in her 80s) and Pope Francis (in his late 70s) are both giving their views on the subject, you know it’s here to stay


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